His sister Bar is already Israel’s most famous model, and now, it’s Dor Refaeli’s turn to occupy the coveted billboards along Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway. But what he’s showing off isn’t himself; it’s his new app, Blindspot – a messaging app that has already generated harsh criticism out of fear that it will abet cyber-bullying and harassment.
- From Bar Refaeli to Gilad Shalit: How Gazan hackers are targeting Israelis
- Bar Refaeli lodges police complaint claiming identity theft
- What Hebrew Wikipedia says about Israelis
The app allows a person to send anonymous messages to his contacts. To read the message, the recipient will have to download the app, but even then, he won’t know who sent it.
One person unlikely to use Blindspot, incidentally, is its creator’s sister. Bar Refaeli famously refuses to read anonymous comments about herself on the web.
Anonymity isn’t new on the web, and over the past few years various anonymous messaging apps have sprouted up, leaving scorched earth behind them. One of them is Secret, which was enormously popular but also became a platform for bullying and revealing other people’s personal information.
Blindspot has already generated similar criticism. A blistering post against the app by screenwriter Eli Weissbart has gotten over 6,000 shares and more than 13,000 likes.
“This cute smiley is an open channel for humiliation, a gaping doorway for evil,” he wrote. “It really doesn’t matter whether your child is the victim or the victimizer.”
Orna Heilinger, who manages the hotline of the Israel Internet Association, also urged people not to download the app.
In summer 2014, when Secret came to Israel, “we all screamed (with a great deal of justice) about how horrible it is,” she said. “An app that enables content to be posted anonymously is dangerous, it’s unnecessary and we ought to refuse to embrace it. I think developers, like users, should exercise judgment, examine the potential damage that’s liable to occur and make a responsible decision. We’ve already seen this nightmare, why return to it?”
The Shellanoo Group, the company behind the app, rejected this criticism.
“Blindspot is an app for sending anonymous messages that was launched less than a week ago, and has already become the top-ranked app in the Google Play and App Store stores,” Shellanoo said. “Users can send messages to each other from within their contacts. Nevertheless, any user can block any message by pressing a single button. If only we could act that way in real life when someone around us acts inappropriately.
“The messages aren’t public, and we take precautions in the app,” it continued. “Blindspot isn’t the first anonymous app and certainly not the only one, but it is undoubtedly the most popular. Thank you for your attention, and for your help in making Blindspot the most downloaded app in Israel.”
Shellanoo is headed by Oded Kobo, the son of businessman Eliezer (“Bebo”) Kobo.